I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this great, budding artist in Chris McCarthy over the past year. Originally from Seattle, now living in Boston, Chris has become a regular performer at Wally’s Cafe. He’s filled in wonderfully in my band on several occasions and his presence on the scene ensures that Boston will remain a stronghold for great pianists! Here’s Chris’s guesses/responses to the blindfold test:
Example 1: Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me, live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).
Within a couple of bars my instinct told me this was Aaron Parks. This reminds me a lot of the “Alive in Japan” recordings Aaron put on his website last year; where he achieves a great freedom with standard tunes and harmony. However, the touch is more percussive than I’ve heard Aaron play usually, so I’m not totally convinced it’s him.
After: My comment about the touch being “percussive” seems pretty strange knowing that it’s Fred Hersch! But listening back to the recording, there are a lot of things that should have clued me into who it was; the amazing voice leading, stretching of the form, fluid technique, all essential parts of Fred’s style. Fred has been an incredible teacher and mentor for me at NEC, and I hope he’s not offended I didn’t get this right!
Example 2: Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)
This reminds me a lot of the sets Kenny Werner has been playing with The Fringe on Monday nights at the Lily Pad in Boston these past few months (but I doubt this is them). The interaction around the trio is great, everyone is extremely flexible and playing without an agenda of where the music should go, especially hard to do when you’re playing one of the most commonly played Monk tunes! But I’m not sure who the pianist is.
After: I saw Aruan’s group with Rez Abassi and Eric McPherson at the Winter Jazz Festival last year. Other than that I haven’t checked him out at all, and had never heard him play standards before. I’m curious to hear more.
Example 3: McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)
My gut is telling me this is Jean Michel Pilc. He’s an incredible player, and I’ve always liked the way Pilc uses the low register of the piano in surprising ways; ‘dropping bombs’ like Horace Silver, but with more defined harmonies. I’ve also heard him use a repeated note figure as a basis for re-harmonization, and a lot of the cascading runs tells me this is someone with outrageous piano technique (such as Pilc).
After: Well that makes sense. No one makes better use of “dropping bombs” in the low register and has more outrageous technique than McCoy!
Example 4: Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.
This band is dealing! It’s an interesting recording because the pianist starts out playing very lyrically. But then as soon as he gets into playing the 4th block chords the vocabulary gets so close to McCoy that I can’t really discern who it is. However, this is certainly an issue I can relate to; if I’m playing “Impressions” at a medium up tempo on a gig, all of my McCoyisms will come out whether I like it or not. The player’s melodic sense is great throughout the solo, and he’s putting the groove first, never overplaying. Xavier Davis is my guess, but whoever it is sounds truly great.
After: I’m surprised! This solo is a lot more restrained than what I’ve heard from Aaron, and also more straight ahead than I associate with his style. I’d love to hear more of him in this context.
Example 5: Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer) live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet
Jason, isn’t this a recording of “Berlin?” Lol! Some of the lines are really surprising harmonically. Sounds like it could be Aaron Parks, if it’s not him someone definitely influenced by him; the use of space and development of ideas reminds me of Aaron, but the melodic and harmonic content sound like someone different. Sam Harris?
After: I’ve only heard Leo on Esperanza’s records, (where he sounds great) but seeing as this solo is bad ass, I need to check out more!
Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).
Sounds like it could be Glenn Zaleski, but it’s hard to say; maybe Gerald Clayton? Nothing I heard really made me think of anyone in particular, the playing was very nice, but it sounded like it could have been a great deal of pianists from the 2000s.
After: I got one! I’ve always loved Gerald’s playing, everything he plays has a very strong vocal quality and he’s got an amazing feel.
Example 7: Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Cornel (2013).
Sounds like Aaron Goldberg’s trio. Aaron has amazing rhythmic vocabulary, and here he’s playing some melodic patterns that I associate with him. He’s also great at prolonging tension throughout a solo, which is definitely happening on this recording.
After: I’ve been checking out a lot of Kikoski recently. He has a trio record with Eric Revis and Jeff Watts that is off the charts. However I still maintain this recording sounds a lot like Aaron Goldberg’s trio.
Check out Chris’s music here!